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Abraham Lincoln's 

Richard W. Thompson 

Excerpts from newspapers and other 


From the files of the 
Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection 

1/ . looQ, &Z 5" t oltOt) 





and Aesop's "Fables," plus the Bible. 
From his earliest days, Lincoln knew 
the Bible, the Encyclopaedia Britan- 
nica says, "for it doubtless was the 
only book his family owned." 

One must draw the conclusion that 
the hard work, the long winter nights 
of loneliness and grief, the life in the 
heart of the forest, the tantalizing 
taste of just enough education to make 
him hungry for more, the compassion- 
ate love given him by his stepmother, 
and the challenge of survival that ex- 
isted every hour, combined to give 
him the ability to reason as few people 
of his century were able to reason. 

He grew up in a nation that ac- 
cepted slavery and racial inequality. 
It must be assumed that at first he 
accepted those things too. But he was 
the first president to free, by official 
executive act, any slave. 

The Emancipation Proclamation 
had its ulterior aspects for the North, 
and it was inadequate; but it was a 
first and a courageous step. It was a 
step into the future, a step beyond 
Lincoln's own time, and it should be 
thus judged. So judged, it should be 
an inspiration for Americans to take 
bold steps beyond their own times for 
the betterment of the nation and the 

Narrow confines of color, creed, sex, 
money, social position, or political par- 
tisanship do not fit the memory of 
Lincoln. Whatever follies he engaged 
in, he out-grew. 

The sounds of the forest he knew, 
now echo across the plains, the des- 
erts and the cities. Because his mind 
was capable of growth, humanity is 
better off. His devotion to freedom 
was contagious, and infected every 
part of humanity with which it came 
into contact. 

One problem encountered in this 
contest was the inadvertent inclusion 
of a column by Walter Trohan titled 
"Why Should The Spirit Of Mortal 
Be Proud?" which was thought to be 
an editorial. As a columnist speaks 
for himself and an editorial writer 
reflects the policy of the newspaper, 
the article had to be eliminated from 
the contest, or at least could not be 
published and called an editorial. 

In addition to the winners, the fol- 
lowing editorials were submitted in 
the competition: 

1. Enigma of Lincoln's Death Casts 
No Cloud on Stature 

The Columbus Dispatch (Colum- 
bus, Ohio) 

2. Legacy of Lincoln 

The Bridgeport Telegram 
(Bridgeport, Connecticut) 

3. Abraham Lincoln the Second 
The Neivs -Sentinel (Fort 
Wayne, Indiana) 

4. 'Something More Than Common' 
The Indinapolis Star (Indiana) 

5. Stark Divisions Of The Age 
Evoke Reminder Of Lincoln's 
Timeless Aim 

The Sacramento Bee (McClatchy 
Newspapers) (California) 

6. Lincoln's Courage Saved Nation 
The San Diego Union (Cali- 

7. Lincoln's Wisdom 

Hamilton Journal-News (Ham- 
ilton, Ohio) 

The Richard W. Thompson 
Manuscript Collection 

Richard W. Thompson (1809-1900), 
who served as Secretary of the Navy 
for three years and nine months of 
the Rutherford B. Hayes administra- 
tion, preserved many of his papers 
connected with his long and varied 
career. The bulk of the collection, 
long in the possession of his daughter, 
Virginia Thompson Henry, was ac- 
quired by the Lincoln National Life 
Foundation prior to 1930. Since that 
date, some of the documents have 
been transferred to the Indiana State 
Library, and a few have been placed 
in the Hayes Memorial at Fremont, 
Ohio. Other papers are still retained 
by members of the Thompson family. 

Only in a few instances did Thomp- 
son keep copies of his letters; how- 
ever, the Abraham Lincoln collection 
in the Library of Congress contains 
a number of his letters to Lincoln 
during the period of 1849 to 1865. The 
Index To The Abraham Lincoln 
Papers lists eighteen different Thomp- 
son letters, twelve of which are ad- 
dressed to Lincoln. The Collected 
Works Of Abraham Lincoln lists 
twelve items in the index relative to 
Richard W. Thompson which includes 
letters, memorandums, introductions, 
telegrams and etc. 

Two original Lincoln letters and a 
telegram (not in Lincoln's handwrit- 
ing) are a part of the Foundation's 
Thompson collection. They follow. 


Springfield, 111., June 18, 1860 

Hon. R. W. Thompson 

My dear Sir: 

Your long letter of the 12th is just 
received, and read — I write this to 
thank you for it; and to say I would 
like for you to converse freely with 
Hon. Henry Winter Davis — And 
lest he be compromised, by infer- 
ence for this, let me say that he and 
I never met, or corresponded — 

Very truly your friend 

A. Lincoln 


Springfield, 111., July 10, 1860 
Hon. R. W. Thompson : 
Dear Sir: 

Yours of the 6th is received, 
and for which I thank you. I write 
this to acknowledge the receipt of 
it, and to say I take time (only a 
little) before answering the main 

If my RECORD would HURT 
any, there is no hope that it will 
be over-looked ; so that if friends 
can HELP any with it they may 
as well do so. Of course, due cau- 
tion and circumspection, will be 

With reference to the same mat- 
ter of WHICH YOU write, I wish 
you would watch Chicago a little. 
They are getting up a movement 
for the 17th Inst. I believe a line 
from you to John Wilson, late of 
the Genl. Land Office (I guess you 

know him well) would fix the mat- 

When I shall have reflected a little, 
you will hear from me again. 

Yours very truly 

A. Lincoln. 

Burn this." 

How many letters Lincoln wrote 
to Thompson during the Presiden- 
tial Campaign of 1860 will likely 
never be known. Undoubtedly there 
were several in Thompson's posses- 
sion and these were apparently tied 
in a small bundle which Thompson 
labeled (on the back of Lincoln's 
letter dated July 10, 1860), "A few 
letters from A. Lincoln during the 
Presidential campaign of 1860. 
Some were destroyed because es- 
pecially confidential." 

On May 27, 1864, Lincoln sent a 
telegram (not in his handwriting) 
to Thompson, residing in Terre 
Haute, Indiana, in answer to his 
letter regarding a military appoint- 
ment for his son: "Your letter in 
relation to Gen. Hunter & your 
son just received. If Gen. Hunter 
should ask to have your son in his 
staff the request would be granted 
but the Gen'l is now actively mov- 
ing in the field & is beyond tele- 
graph. I doubt whether the pro- 
motion you think of is legally 

A. Lincoln" 

Thompson married Harriet Eliza 
Gardiner on May 5, 1836, and she 
bore him eight children. The son 
mentioned in the telegram was Rich- 
ard W. Thompson, Jr., who before he 
was eighteen, joined Lew Wallace's 
regiment, the Eleventh Indiana Vol- 
unteers. At the expiration of his 
term, he re-enlisted for three years. 
Having served more than a year on 
the staff of Major-General David 
Hunter, he wished to be returned to 
him again when placed upon active 
duty. However, no record has been 
found of the transfer of Captain 
Richard W. Thompson, Jr. from com- 
missary duties with the Army of the 
Potomac to the staff of General 

The elder Thompson was born in 
Virginia and resided a short while in 
Louisville, Kentucky, before moving 
to Bedford, the County seat of Law- 
rence County Indiana. In 1843, he be- 
came a permanent resident of Terre 
Haute. He was admitted to the bar in 
1834 and shortly thereafter elected to 
the Indiana legislature. In 1841, he 
was elected as a Whig representative 
to Congress for the term ending in 
1843 and was again elected to Con- 
gress from Indiana for the term be- 
ginning in 1847 to 1849. This was the 
Thirtieth Congress of which Abraham 
Lincoln was a Whig member from 

While Lincoln and Thompson had 
practiced law in adjoining circuits and 
had frequently corresponded about 
legal matters, they did not become 
personally acquainted until they met 
in Washington, D. C. In the Thirtieth 
Congress they became good friends, 
and an interesting story was related 


From the Lincoln National Life Foundation 

Colonel Richard W. Thompson from a Daguer- 
reotype taken in 1850. In 1834 Thompson was 
made a member of Indiana Governor Noah 
Noble's staff and assumed the complimentary 
title of colonel. 

concerning their friendship by Mrs. 
Henry, the daughter of Col. Thomp- 
son, to Philip S. Rush, at one time a 
reporter for the Terre Haute Tribune : 
"During- the last year of Col. 
Thompson's term in Congress, he 
received an invitation to a large re- 
ception to be held at the home of one 
of Washington's social queens. 
Being well acquainted with the 
hostess, Col. Thompson asked per- 
mission to bring with him a young 
friend from Illinois, Abe Lincoln, 
and the hostess consented, although 
she had never heard of the Illinois 
congressman before. Lincoln did not 
care to enter the society of the capi- 
tal, however, and at first declined 
to go to the reception, but finally 
agreed to accompany Thompson. 
The home was an elegant one, and 
the affair a brilliant gathering of 
Senators, diplomats, cabinet mem- 
bers and representatives, and the 
awkward Lincoln felt and appeared 
very ill at ease in the assemblage. 
In after years Col. Thompson de- 
scribed him, telling of the difficulty 
he had with his long, ungainly legs, 
and how he appeared at a loss to 
know what to do with his hands. 

"During the evening, however, it 
was noticed that the hostess and 
Lincoln were engaged in a spirited 
conversation, in which the woman 
appeared deeply interested in her 
new acquaintence, while the Illinois 
congressman apparently forgot his 
embarrassment and was much more 
at ease. Some time later Col. 
Thompson met the lady and asked 
her what she thought of Lincoln. 
'I think', she replied, 'that he is 
the only one who attended the re- 
ception who will ever be president 
of the United States'. Whether or 
not there were other future presi- 
dents at her home that night is not 
now known, but the prediction of 

this hostess was made many years 
before Abraham Lincoln had more 
than a local fame." 

There were periods in their careers 
when the political views of Lincoln 
and Thompson differed widely, but 
they continued to remain friends. On 
the eve of the election of 1860, Thomp- 
son expressed confidence in Lincoln 
as a conservative leader. He said : "If 
Mr. Lincoln is elected to the presi- 
dency he will be entitled to the respect 
of every man in the United States. 
His strength consists of his conserva- 
tism." Referring to the issues which 
concerned the South, Thompson said: 
"They want the fugitive slave law ex- 
ecuted. Mr. Lincoln says that it shall 
be executed. They want the right of 
territories recognized to come into the 
Union as slave states. Mr. Lincoln 
says it shall be recognized. They want 
the rights of all states preserved. Mr. 
Lincoln says they shall be preserved. 
He differs with them on . . . the Wilmot 
Proviso. Lincoln says it should be 
passed to prohibit slavery in the terri- 
tories. But there cannot be any Wilmot 
Proviso during Lincoln's term, if he is 
elected, because the Democrats will 
have a majority in the Senate until 
1865 and they can prevent the passage 
of such a measure." 

However, Thompson thought the 
Constitutional Union party was more 
national in scope than any of the 
others, and he made the surprising 
statement, prior to the election, that, 
"... I helped to nominate Mr. Bell and 
shall vote for him and nobody else." 

A cordial relationship existed be- 
tween the two men during the war 
years, and it has been stated that Lin- 
coln considered Thompson for a Cabi- 
net appointment. In fact, it has been 
fairly well affirmed that Presidents 
Taylor, Fillmore and Lincoln made 
him proffers of national offices, all of 
which he declined. 

Complete accord between the two 
men was impossible, and these differ- 
ences have been elaborated upon by 
Charles Roll in his book Colonel Dick 
Thompson — The Persistent Whig, 
Indiana Historical Bureau, 1948. 
Thompson thought that Lincoln 
was much too lenient with those who 
impeded the progress of the war, and 
one major difference of opinion had to 
do with Lincoln's issuance of the 
Emancipation Proclamation. Thomp- 
son's views and those of his conserva- 
tive friends were outlined in a letter 
to the President, dated January 26, 
1863. The letter was never sent and 
it is now in the Thompson collection 
in the Foundation's archives (See 
Lincoln Lore, Number 1451, January, 

Thompson approved of Lincoln's 
plan of reconstruction, and he favored 
the re-nomination of Lincoln for a 
second term. In fact, he served as an 
Indiana elector, and, when that State 
cast its votes for Lincoln, Thompson 
was able to cast an electoral vote for 
his former Whig comrade in Congress. 

The greatest contribution to the 
Civil War effort on the part of "The 

Persistent Whig" from Indiana was 
the recruitment of soldiers and their 
organization after their enlistment. 
President Lincoln appointed Thomp- 
son provost marshal of the Seventh 
Congressional District on May 1, 1863, 
and his war activity proved to be the 
busiest period of his long life. 

Lincoln's old friend, after the sec- 
ond inauguration, expressed fears for 
the President's life. He wrote a letter 
to John D. Defrees, in which he ex- 
pressed serious concern about the pos- 
sibility of Lincoln's assassination, and 
Defrees read the letter to Lincoln 
"who said that he did not have the 
same apprehension that his friend 
had. He did not think there was any 
danger." However, before Defrees re- 
ported the incident to Thompson, the 
assassin had struck. The entire 
Thompson family viewed the Presi- 
dent as a personal friend and there 
was a great deal of gloom at Terre 

Thompson was never an admirer of 
Andrew Johnson, and he viewed with 
alarm his selection on the Union party 
ticket for the vice-presidency in 1864. 
True to form Johnson relieved Thomp- 
son of his office as Collector of In- 
ternal Revenue for his district (Lin- 
coln's appointment) in 1866. 

The Thompson collection of manu- 
scripts in the Foundation's archives, 
in addition to the letters written by 
Lincoln, are of great historical value 
to the Lincoln and Civil War students 
as well as the Indiana and United 
States historians. Some of the docu- 
ments deal with Lincoln's Emancipa- 
tion Proclamation; there are anti- 
Lincoln letters, letters dealing with 
the Civil War and the assassination, 
Ku Klux Klan material, letters that 
mention Lincoln, letters of Presidents 
of the United States and quite a num- 
ber of manuscripts that are unidenti- 
fied. A large file of manuscripts con- 
tain notes for Thompson's speeches 
and addresses and some 574 letters 
addressed to Thomposon, from Abbott 
to Yeatman, have been alphabetically 
catalogued and filed. 

Thompson saw all the Presidents of 
the United States from Jefferson to Mc- 
Kinley and "was personally acquainted 
with most of them." In 1894 The 
Bowen-Merrill Company of Indian- 
apolis published Thompson's two vol- 
ume works titled Recollections of Six- 
teen Presidents From Washington To 

One unique accomplishment of Col. 
Dick Thompson, which is of little his- 
torical significance is that "for fifty 
years prior to his death he smoked an 
average of twenty cigars a day." How- 
ever, a more conservative account 
states that, "his doctor finally had to 
limit him to four cigars a day." In 
1898, Robert G. Ingersoll wrote Thomp- 
son that, "I think that if I can only 
smoke enough I may live to be eighty- 
nine." Thompson died February 9, 
1900, eight months after the celebra- 
tion of his ninetieth birthday, the last 
survivor of the "Indiana General As- 
sembly of 1834 and of the Twenty- 
Seventh and Thirtieth Congresses." 

Lincoln Lore 

March, 1974 

Bulletin of The Lincoln National Life Foundation. ..Mark E. Neely, Jr., Editor. Published each 
month by The Lincoln National Life Insurance Company, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46801. 

Number 1633 


A Revieiv Essay (Cont.) 

so different that some pic- 
ture Copperheads as traitors 
on the brink of pulling the 
rug from under the Union, 
others as harmless lunatics 
on the fringe, and others as 
misunderstood victims of 
Republican oppression and 
propaganda. Instead of clar- 
ifying, Curry participates 
in the confusion which has 
dogged historians of the 
Copperheads from the start. 
The problem is one of defi- 
nition. Are Copperheads 
Democrats, peace Demo- 
crats, or traitors? 

Even Curry is not sure. 
On the very first page of 
his article he posits Copper- 
heads and Republican Radi- 
cals as polar opposites, 
blaming the Radicals for in- 
terpreting the Copperheads' 
political dislike of emanci- 
pation, infringements of 
civil liberties, and the draft 
as "disloyal" and "treason- 
able." Here "Copperheads" 
clearly connotes "most Dem- 
ocrats" — only seen unfair- 
ly by the anti-slavery fac- 
tion of the Republican 
party. Yet most Republi- 
cans and not just radicals 
were capable of seeing Cop- 
perheads in large numbers. 
The case of Richard W. 
Thompson provides an ex- 
cellent example. Thompson 
was a conservative Whig 
turned Constitutional Union 
man in 1860. During the 
secession crisis, he himself 
envisioned a Northwest Con- 
federacy, or rather a middle 
nation stretching from Vir- 
ginia to California but ex- 
cluding the South and New 
England. In the Thompson 
Manuscripts in the collec- 
tions of the Lincoln Library 
and Museum is a letter 
written from Thompson to 
Governor John Letcher of 
Virginia on December 22, 
1860, which begins this way : 
Such is the fearful pos- 
ture of our public affairs 
that we are all trying to 
look into the future, to 
see in what way the in- 

From the Indiana Division, Indiana State Library, Indianapolis 
Oliver P. Morton 

The villain of Henry Adams's novel Democracy (1880) 
is Silas P. Ratcliffe, "the Prairie Giant of Peonia, the 
Favorite Son of Illinois.'" The novel's plot centers on the 
gradual discovery of the corrupt practices Ratcliffe uses 
to gain his politically powerful position as a strong con- 
tender for the presidential nomination. Like all the char- 
acters in the book, Ratcliffe is a blend of traits taken 
from the Washington life Adams had viewed at first 
hand. One of the models for Ratcliffe was certainly James 
G. Blaine, but another one may well have been Oliver P. 
Morton, a United States Senator by the time Adams was 
observing the Washington scene. One of the first ambig- 
uous clues to RatclifTe's character is the revelation that as 
wartime governor of Illinois, he had falsified election re- 
turns in order to save his state and ultimately the nation 
from being won "by the peace party." The event may well 
have been drawn from Morton's reputedly high-handed 
methods of saving Indiana from the Democrats. In actual 
fact, Tredway's book reveals that Morton frequently acted 
the part of a moderate, refusing to send troops to quash 
insurrections imagined by hysterical provost marshals and 
local Republican politicians. Only in the case of the elec- 
tion year of 1864 does Morton appear as the prime mover 
in attempts to exacerbate the Copperhead problem. 

terest of the several sec- 
tions is to be preserved 
and advanced. It will not 
do to let the material 
prosperity of the Coun- 
try be all sacrificed and 
destroyed by political or 
sectional broils, — and 
whether the Union shall 
remain intact or be final- 
ly & entirely dissolved, 
every reflecting man must 
see that the central belt 
of States, from the At- 
lantic to the Pacific, must 
always share a common 
destiny. In the event of 
dissolution they would 
have no difficulty in form- 
ing a satisfactory union, 
— leaving the extreme 
north to indulge its vaga- 
ries alone, and the ex- 
treme South to develope 
its capacity and resources 
in its own way. 
When the Emancipation 
Proclamation was issued, 
Thompson remained true to 
his lifelong acquiescence in 
the existence of slavery and 
drafted a long protest say- 
ing that it was constitution- 
ally unjust and racially dan- 
gerous. This petition is also 
among the Thompson manu- 
scripts at the Lincoln Li- 
brary and Museum ; the fol- 
lowing passages are repre- 
sentative of Thompson's 
sentiments expressed in the 
petition of January 26, 1863 : 
We have still a nation to 
be preserved, — the con- 
stitution yet survives the 
shock of battle, — and we 
should prove recreant to 
the obligations which rest 
upon us as citizens of a 
government, hitherto the 
happiest in the world, 
were we to omit to do, 
whatever we may right- 
fully do, to perpetuate it 
for our children. . . . The 
gallant and noble-hearted 
soldiers who compose this 
army, have obeyed your 
call with unparalleled 
alacrity, and have willing- 
ly exchanged the com- 
forts of home for the 


hardships of the camp and the hazards of the battle- 
field, that they may fight for the Constitution. . . . 
Such an army may be trusted ... so long as this 
great object is kept steadily before it. What it would 
become, if another object were substituted for this, 
infinite wisdom can alone foresee. . . . You have, how- 
ever, . . . thought it to be your duty to take a still 
further step — beyond the law — and to issue a procla- 
mation giving freedom to the slave property of every 
loyal man, woman, child and lunatic, who is so un- 
fortunate as to reside within the limits you have de- 
fined. By this act, . . . you propose that loyal citizens 
shall be punished by the forfeiture of their property, 
when, by the law, they are held guiltless of any offence 
against the Government. . . . the question whether 
slavery advances or retards the prosperity of a State, 
or whether the slave of a loyal man shall still remain 
in bondage, or be made free, must be left where the 
Constitution leaves them, — to the States them- 
selves .... 

Here was constitutional delicacy worthy of a Copperhead. 

In the petition Thompson also answered abolitionists' 

criticism with the Copperheads' stock argument based 

in racial fear: 

[Mr. Seward] furnished . 
their [the abolitionists'] 
your avowed policy, and 
to all their vaporing 
about an emancipation 
crusade. He said . . . 
"Does France or Great 
Britain want to see a 
social revolution, with all 
its horrors, like the slave 
revolution in St Domin- 
go? Are these powers sure 
that the country or the 
world is ripe for such a 
revolution, so that it may 
be certainly successful? 
What, if inaugurating 
such a revolution, slavery, 
protesting against its fe- 
rocity and inhumanity, 
should prove the victor?" 
Yet Richard Thompson 
became a Republican, possi- 
bly as early as 1860. When 
the war came, he served 
first as commandant of 
Camp Vigo (later named 
Camp Dick Thompson) in 
Vigo County, recruiting and 
organizing Indiana soldiers 
to put down the rebellion 
and, eventually, to free the 
slaves. In 1863, Lincoln ap- 
pointed him provost mar- 
shal of the Seventh Con- 
gressional District in Indi- 
ana. His recruiting and or- 
ganizing activities contin- 
ued, but he also began to 
engage in what might be 
called matters of internal 
security. He reported dis- 
turbances like the murder 
of a draft enrollment officer, 
blaming it on a group of 
some 1,200-1,500 potentially 
rebellious citizens. He re- 
ported rumors that arms 
were being shipped into the 
district at an alarming rate, 
and he urged inspections of 
packages to detect such ship- 
ments. He even employed a 
spy who signed his letters 
"H." to report to him regu- 
larly on the activities of po- 
tentially disloyal local 
groups. In short, Thompson 
believed in and reported to 
state officials a sizeable Cop- 

. . a complete answer to all 
clamorous denunciation of 

From the Lincoln National Life Foundation 

Richard Wigginton Thompson (1809-1900) is famed for 
his nationalism. Like his exact contemporary Abraham 
Lincoln, Thompson was a Whig until he perceived that 
the party was dead. Thompson's perception of the party's 
demise came in 1852 (much earlier than Lincoln's), and 
thereafter their ways parted for a while. Thompson be- 
came active in Indiana's Know Nothing movement, re- 
mained in that movement after most Know Nothings de- 
serted to the Republicans, and became a member of the 
Constitutional Union party. Thompson thus avoided join- 
ing the Republican party (which he thought was a sec- 
tional party) until the secession crisis; even after joining 
the Republicans, he remained critical of their policies on 
race and worked mainly to restore the Union. Despite the 
conservative love of the Union seemingly exemplified in 
this superficial capsule of Thompson's political career, 
the actual limits of his nationalism are discussed in this 
Lincoln Lore and reveal further the complexities of evalu- 
ating his enemies in the Civil War, the Copperheads. 

perhead menace. His suspicions may have been paranoid, 
but they were not, at least, the products of a Radical 
imagination. Nor would private warnings and the clande- 
stine employment of spies seem to be necessary simply 
to fabricate a Copperhead menace for political ends; that 
could be accomplished without any knowledge, and the 
noisier the accomplishment the better. 

Most often, Curry seems to mean by "Copperhead" 
not most Democrats but the conservative Democratic 
faction. Indeed, the upshot of most revisionist writing 
about the Copperheads is to show that very few, if any, 
Democrats were Copperheads, if by that term one means 
treasonous opponents of the war. Curry refers to re- 
visionist writings about "the aims and objectives of con- 
servative northern Democrats" which dispute "the Cop- 
perhead stereotype." Three pages further on, he refers 
to the "Peace Democrats, a label attached to those Cop- 
perheads unrealistic enough to believe the Union could 
be restored if only North and South could be persuaded 
to come together at the conference table." Yet Curry 
quotes without comment Robert Rutland's remark that 
"the hard core of the Copperhead movement was located 
. . . in the areas voting Democratic in pre-war Iowa" 
as though it said the same thing of Iowa that Eugene 
Roseboom did of Ohio when he said that "the Peace 
Democrats of Ohio were the old-line, hard-shell Demo- 
crats." Is a Copperhead by 
definition a Peace Democrat 
or are the Peace Democrats 
only the "unrealistic" fac- 
tion of the Copperheads? It 
is hard to tell from Curry's 
article. The confusion is 
serious. When Curry says, 
"Kenneth Stampp goes one 
step further by arguing that 
Hoosiers living in the south- 
ern part of the state, be- 
cause of their dependence 
upon the river trade, had 
more to fear economically 
from a successful rebellion 
than people in any other 
section," what does it im- 
ply? Does it mean there 
were no Copperheads in 
southern Indiana because 
everyone supported the war 
from fear of disruption of 
the river trade? Or does it 
mean the Copperheads in 
southern Indiana supported 
the war? If the latter, how 
does one tell a Copperhead 
from a War Democrat? 

It is hard to compare 
studies of Copperheads be- 
cause it so often boils down 
to comparing apples and 
oranges. Some are studying 
peace Democrats, some are 
studying Democrats in gen- 
eral, and some seem to be 
studying conservative Dem- 
ocrats who like the war but 
are not War Democrats, 
whatever that is. Among 
those studying peace Demo- 
crats, some are studying 
people who wanted reunion 
but thought an armistice 
would bring it about, and 
some are studying people 
who wanted peace on any 
terms. The result in his- 
toriography is that we know 
little of the Democratic 
party in general — even of 
its 1864 presidential candi- 
date's political views — be- 
cause historians so often 
focus on treason trials when 
they start out to find out 
what exactly Democrats be- 


lieved and did from 1861 till 1865. 

Curry's article and most of the works attempting to 
exonerate the Copperheads mesh perfectly with the work 
of revisionists of the history of pre-Civil War America 
(like Beveridge, Milton, and even Robert Johannsen). 
William Dusinberre describes this school of thought ac- 
curately in a little-known book entitled Civil War Issues 
in Philadelphia, 1856-1865 (Philadelphia: University of 
Pennsylvania Press, 1965) : 

A revisionist interpretation stresses the ill conse- 
quences of the abolitionist and radical Republican agi- 
tation against slavery. According to this view, North- 
ern radicals (together with their counterparts, the 
Southern "fire-eaters") provoked an unnecessary war 
by arousing popular emotions about issues which, ra- 
tionally considered, were of little importance. In the 
wartime North the most noteworthy political disputes 
took place, not between Democrats and Republicans, 
but between disruptive radicals and sober conservatives 
within the Republican Party. Conservative Republicans, 
it is implied, had much in common with the great bulk 
of the Democratic Party, which loyally supported the 
war; "Peace Democrats" were of comparatively little 

Thus Dusinberre explains the spirit of much of the re- 
visionist work on Copperheads and, in particular, Curry's 
suggestion that Copperheads were the constructs (real 
or imagined) of Republican Radicals. Dusinberre himself 
holds that there seem to be very sharp contrasts between 
Republicans and Democrats, and the difference between 
the factions within the two parties may not be as sharp. 

Analysis of Curry's confusion is a round-about way of 
pointing up the most misleading and glaringly inaccurate 
part of Tredway's book, the title. Calling what he studies 
the "Democratic" opposition to the Lincoln administra- 
tion caused severe disappointment for this reader. I ex- 
pected a study of the speeches of Daniel Voorhees and 
Thomas Hendricks or of the voting records of Democrats 
in the Indiana legislature or of the voting records of 
Indiana's Democratic representatives in Washington. 
Such a study was needed before Tredway's book, and 
it still is. The Democratic party during the Civil War 
remains the dark continent of American history, shrouded 
in mystery, misconception, and sensational rumor. Tred- 
way began his book in a way that would have been a 
valuable corrective to Curry's error, documenting pro- 
found differences between Republicans and Democrats. 
But he ended the book as a captive of the old-fashioned 
view, minimizing the seriousness of the Indiana Copper- 
heads' intentions and strength. 

The title is doubly disappointing because of its refer- 
ence to the "Lincoln Administration." Abraham Lincoln's 
relationship to the events in the book is sketchy, but he 
gets the blame for everything Tredway hates. It is an 
avowedly anti-Lincoln book. Tredway announces in the 
"Introduction" his intention to "pursue what may be 
described as a critical approach to the administration of 
Abraham Lincoln and its policies." Yet it is a study of 
resistance to Oliver Morton, to various Union military 
commanders in Indiana, and even to draft enrollment 
officers. Some were Lincoln appointees, and some were 
not. Morton, certainly, was no appointee; he was the 
governor elected by the people of Indiana. Besides, is 
every last mail-carrier, even in the days before civil ser- 
vice reform, a member of the "administration"? None- 
theless, by the end of the book, Tredway comments on the 
"distinct streak of ruthlessness in the Civil War Presi- 
dent" and says "the true Lincoln nobody knows" was 
"the man of blood and iron." 

Tredway's documentation of these charges depends on 
two critical events, one of which did not even occur in 
Indiana, federal interference with elections in Kentucky, 
and Lincoln's aid in Morton's scheme to arrest the alleged 
traitors. If the first event is so important for Tredway's 
book, his reference to "Indiana" in the title misleads once 
again, though he does make a good point that awareness 
of events in neighboring Kentucky alarmed Democrats in 
Indiana. It should be added that Tredway relies heavily 
for his account of Kentucky events on the work of E. 
Merton Coulter, a notoriously pro-Southern source. 

Lincoln's help to Morton seems the most important, if 
for no other reason than that it links Lincoln directly 
to the events in Indiana, the avowed subject of the book. 
Moreover, Lincoln's aid seems to have escaped comment 
by previous writers. During the summer of 1864, Gover- 
nor Oliver P. Morton and federal authorities represented 
primarily by General Henry B. Carrington in Indianapo- 
lis were contemplating the arrests of some of the alleged 
leaders of the Northwest Conspiracy. The major Re- 
publican newspaper in Indiana urged hanging the men, 
but it urged they get that sentence by regular process 
in civil courts. General Carrington, a former abolitionist 
and associate of Salmon P. Chase noted today primarily 
for his ruthless suppression of domestic foes, also wanted 
them tried in ordinary civil courts and wanted only a 
few select leaders to be arrested. Governor Morton, on 
the other hand, was an elected official. Feeling the pres- 
sure of the coming autumn elections, he wanted the al- 
leged traitors arrested in August; it was "essential to the 
national cause in the coming elections." Moreover, Mor- 
ton wanted them to be tried by military commission. 
Tredway relates what ensued (the chronology is a bit 
loose) : 

General Heintzelman, commander of the Northern De- 
partment, shared Carrington's view that the exposures 
and arrests of August and September had achieved the 
necessary political effect and refused to sanction Mor- 
ton's proposal. The governor then went to the Presi- 
dent, who had no inhibitions. Lincoln organized the 
District of Indiana separately from the Northern De- 
partment so as to by-pass Heintzelman and replaced 
Carrington with General Alvin P. Hovey, who had no 
compunctions about military arrests and trials. Hovey 
assumed command on August 25, [Bowles and Dodd 
were arrested in September] and for good measure 
Heintzelman was superseded by General Joseph Hooker 
on October 1. A new wave of arrests began on October 
5 and added the names of Bingham, Heffren, Humph- 
reys, and Milligan to the list of prominent prisoners. 

Tredway's account of the incident is an improvement 
upon Stampp's in that Tredway makes explicit who ac- 
complished the shake-up in Indiana's federal high com- 
mand. Stampp implies that it was Morton but does not 
say what authorities Morton had to convince: 

. . . Morton feared delay and frankly asserted that 
an immediate trial was "essential to the success of 
the National cause in the autumn elections." Hence he 
quickly obtained an order for Carrington's removal. 
On August 25 the Governor secured the appointment of 
Gen. Alvin P. Hovey, a political general from Indiana 
who was thoroughly in sympathy with his course. 

But from whom, one wonders. Tredway says it was from 
Lincoln, but his source is apparently the same as 
Stampp's, the Carrington Papers. Stampp had no ap- 
parent motive to keep Lincoln's connection silent; his 
book, after all, was written to exonerate Indiana Demo- 
crats from charges of Copperheadism or disloyalty. Tred- 
way cites no source in any Lincoln collection nor any 
evidence at all that Lincoln changed officers to satisfy 
Morton. Hovey's instructions, which authorized him, ac- 
cording to Tredway, "to make military arrests, to organ- 
ize military courts and employ them to try citizens, and 
to carry their sentences into effect," came from the 
Assistant Adjutant General. To a man uninformed about 
the situation, Hovey might have looked more lenient 
than Carrington, for Hovey was an Indiana native and 
a former Democrat. To carry the great weight of justi- 
fying the title of the book and the book's persistent 
animus against Lincoln, the event needs more direct evi- 
dence and more specific documentation. 

In the last analysis, Tredway's conclusions are un- 
convincing as well as mutually contradictory. His use 
of evidence is clumsy. However, the evidence itself is 
interesting. The social history from county newspapers, 
the examination of the testimony from the treason trials, 
and the sketches of the defendants in those trials make 
interesting reading. The book offers little or nothing in 
the way of quantitative evidence, but it is the product 
of much research in manuscript collections and news- 
papers. Tredway's book will interest the reader, but I 
doubt that it will convince him. 


The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson: 
Recent Articles 


Michael Les Benedict, the author of the book on the 
impeachment and trial of Andrew Johnson reviewed in 
the Lincoln Lore for November, 1973, published "A New 
Look at the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson" in the 
Political Science Quarterly for September, 1973. The 
article discusses only the impeachment (not the trial) 
and is written more for the student of law or govern- 
ment interested in the event as a precedent than for the 
student of Reconstruction history. 

Stanley I. Kutler, himself the author of a book on 
Judicial Power and Reconstruction Politics (Chicago: 
University of Chicago Press, 1968), reviews Benedict's 
book in the issue of Reviews in American History for 
December, 1973. Kutler uses Benedict's book to counter 
the argument of Raoul Berger's Impeachment : The Con- 
stitutional Problems (Cambridge: Harvard University 
Press, 1973). It is Berger's contention that impeachment 
should be subject to judicial review. Berger, the lawyer, 
has more faith in judges than Benedict and Kutler, the 
historians. Berger's distrust of legislators is based on 
the old-fashioned view of Andrew Johnson's impeach- 
ment as the result of political vindictiveness. Yet Berg- 
er's own book argues that impeachment need not be 
confined to cases of indictable criminal action. He fails 
to make the logical leap that Benedict did. Reasoning 
that the legislators did not ignore constitutional re- 

straint, Benedict could reevaluate the whole story of 
Johnson's impeachment. 

The Congressional elections of 1866 and 1867 figure 
prominently in any estimate of Reconstruction politics 
and Andrew Johnson's presidency. Benedict stressed the 
election of 1867 in his book. Lawrence N. Powell gives 
a refreshing look at the "Rejected Republican Incum- 
bents in the 1866 Congressional Nominating Conventions" 
in the September, 1973 issue of Civil War History. 
Powell shows that traditional election practices such as 
the rotation of candidates in accordance with their resi- 
dence in two- or three-county Congressional districts 
caused many elections to turn on issues other than ones 
involving national Reconstruction. He thus challenges 
the assumption that the 1866 election was a radical 
sweep, even suggesting that in many cases candidates 
were rejected regardless of their stance on Reconstruc- 

Since Richard E. Neustadt's work was mentioned in 
the historiographical introduction to the Lincoln Lore 
article on Johnson's impeachment, perhaps his most 
recent work deserves notice. In The New York Times 
Magazine of October 14, 1973, Neustadt reconsiders 
presidential power in an article entitled "The Constrain- 
ing of the President." 

From the Lincoln National Life Foundation 

The Declaration of Independence rejected the rule of a monarch, and Americans ever since have pictured Presidents 
who seem to exceed their official powers as kings. Thomas Nast drew Andrew Johnson as King Richard III for the 
Harper's Weekly of July 25, 1868. Johnson was made to appear as Shakespeare's despot searching for any horse to 
ride to power, whether it be a Republican, Democratic, or Conservative horse. The cartoon appeared after the Demo- 
cratic Convention of 1868 nominated Horatio Seymour to run for the presidency.